This was originally posted on the Get Well Grounded Blog (www.getwellgrounded.com/blog), but I thought I'd repost here.
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “You have to spend money to make money”. There’s certainly some truth to that. Here’s another one for ya: you have to unplug to stay connected. No doubt. What do I mean?…
People who’ve known me for a while are keenly aware of my resistance to embracing technology. It’s not that I don’t appreciate all the new tools we have or see the potential benefits of it all. I do. I also feel nostalgia for a simpler, calmer, less plugged-in time. And I worry that we’re becoming completely dependent on all our gadgets and electronic communications. In the interest of full disclosure, a few facts from my past… I used a Brother word processor until my last semester in college when my parents rocketed me into the computer age with a graduation gift: my first computer. I don’t even think I used email until that last semester. It took me years (after my friends had theirs) to cave in and get my first cell phone. And, even after I got it, I kept a land line for 5 years, on principle. I dug in my heels about Facebook (never thought I’d be on there) until my webmaster gave me a swift kick in the a$$ about social media in business. And, I just got my first smartphone 2 months ago, even though this little piece of technology makes a ton of sense for a web-based business owner. Yep, I can be stubborn.
But it’s more than stubbornness. My hesitance also comes from inner wisdom. I have a bit of an addictive personality and I can get easily absorbed in certain things, and social media, computers, and smartphones can be major vices if you’re not careful. Think about how often you check your e-mail. How much time do you spend on Facebook or Twitter? If your cell phone rings, do you answer it without thinking? I teach at a university and my students believe that it’s okay to check email, text message, etc., during class. This one still shocks me, and doesn’t fly in my classroom! Why do we need to be so accessible? It’s too much. I’m an open person and I love spending time with people, but this society of electronic “connectedness” is in many ways making us less productive, invading our privacy and stripping us of our moments of solitude. Why are we so afraid to be alone with our own thoughts? And if we want alone time, we have to schedule it! It didn’t used to be that way.
During my final year in grad school, I went on a 5-day vacation to the Yucatan peninsula. I stayed in a biosphere reserve, slept in a hut by the ocean, and there was no electricity (except in the kitchen building where they made us the most wonderful fresh food!). I turned off my cell phone when I boarded the plane, left it in my bag the whole time, and didn’t check messages until the day after I returned home. That vacation was the beginning of some serious lifestyle changes to come. I returned home feeling refreshed and peaceful, and it did not go unnoticed. My friends kept commenting on how different my energy was. My reactions to all the normal frustrations were so different (my stress response had shifted). Granted, some of this came from taking my first real vacation, 5 days with great people in a beautiful place, and the healing power of the ocean. But I know that getting unplugged was a hugely important piece of the relaxation and transformation.
For some of you, 5 days without answering the phone, checking emails or text messages, and generally being “connected” with people may seem uncomfortable or even impossible. So let me share this. After my Mexico vacation, I checked my phone and I had a few messages and missed calls. I returned them over the next few days. There were no problems and everyone was fine waiting for the returned calls. I checked my e-mail and there were a lot of messages to sort through. It was a bit overwhelming at first, but I learned something really cool. I had forgotten to set an autoresponder, so people were wondering why I wasn’t getting back to them. No emergencies. Nothing serious. It’s just that people were so used to me getting back to them within hours (sometimes minutes) that they were confused by my delayed response. I had a few messages marked urgent. I wasn’t able to respond to those ‘urgent’ messages while I was away, but there were no tragic consequences. Everything had been taken care of without me. People could survive and function without me for 5 days. Go figure. Understanding that was so freeing! From that moment on, I started choosing one weekend day each month to unplug. I would turn off my phone, turn off my computer, and make no plans. On these unplugged days, I’d curl up and read an entire book, play outside with my dog, cook something new, and do whatever else came up. Ironically, unplugging allowed me to recharge and to feel more connected with myself, my environment, and the world.
These days, I spend a lot of time on the phone and on the computer. I love what I’m doing, but there are times when I feel overstimulated, overly accessible, and underconnected. It’s time to reinstitute my unplugged days. Maybe that sounds great to you too. Maybe it sounds like too much too soon. Here are a few ways you can unplug a little and take back your you time in your daily life. See if any resonate with you…
Do you need to get unplugged? Any of these sound familiar? (I’ve done ‘em all)
If you create your own intentions and rituals to help you unplug, I promise you’ll end up more, not less, connected with the people in your life (including yourself). eat well. live well. be well. get well grounded.